DEAR ABBY: My loving, vibrant 68-year-old mother suffered a massive stroke in January. When the doctor told us there was nothing they could do, we told him and the emergency room staff that she wanted to be an organ donor. When Mother was alive, she frequently stressed how much it would mean to her to help others in this way.
As Mother lingered in a coma in the intensive care unit, her nurse called us, suggesting we return to the hospital to say our final goodbyes. Her blood pressure was falling quickly and death could be imminent.
When we arrived, I asked the attending nurse how the organ donation process works. He stared at me blankly and was surprised to hear Mother was an organ donor. They immediately started administering medication to sustain her organs.
I'm grateful I spoke up before she passed away and her organs were no longer viable.
Thankfully, five people benefited from her liver, corneas and kidneys. Her heart and lungs are being used for medical studies.
The local organ bank told me that this is a common oversight in hospitals, and one they are trying hard to remedy with hospital staff members.
I hope others learn from my experience and make sure that organ donation is carried out for their loved ones. It takes more than just checking the organ donor box on your driver's license to ensure the gift of life to others. -- KERRY ZICKERT, CLARENDON HILLS, ILL.
DEAR KERRY: Thank you for an important letter and for wanting to alert families of prospective organ donors about your experience. Although the number of potential organ donors remains about the same, the demand for organs continues to grow.
It's a tragedy when organs, which can mean the difference between life and death, are lost because of a lack of communication between families and health-care professionals.